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Doc. 3.-battle of Fredericksburg, Va. Reply of Maj.-Gen. Franklin.1

On the sixth day of April last a Report, purporting to be signed by the members of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, was published in many of the leading papers in the United States.

The Thirty-seventh Congress expired, by constitutional limitation, on the fourth of March previous. Some of the testimony embodied in the report has been taken since that time, and, consequently, this document has been spread before the country without having been submitted to either branch of Congress.

I do not refer to this irregular proceeding of a committee which had ceased to have a legal existence as a defence against the charges of which they have convicted me, but as one of the facts fairly to be considered in connection with the report itself, and the purposes it was intended to subserve.

The committee have not devoted much space to me, either in citations of testimony or in statements of their own; but in that limited space they have presented me before the country as responsible for the loss of the battle of Fredericksburg, in consequence of my disobedience of the orders of General Burnside.

If this be true, I have been guilty of the highest crime known to the military law, for the commission of which my life is forfeit and my name consigned to infamy.

Justice to the country, to the administration which has given me important commands in its armies, and to myself, demands that I meet these grave allegations as promptly as possible; while, from the peculiar circumstances of the case, the mode I adopt is the only one open to me.

Since the publication of the report, I have received an answer to an inquiry at the Adjutant-General's office, informing me that there are no charges on file against me at the department, to which, as a soldier, I am amenable. I am not at liberty to ignore a report which has already reached the hands of a majority of the loyal people of the United States, emanating from a committee of their representatives in Congress, because the legislative department of the government has taken upon itself duties that belong to the executive. I cannot shut my eyes to the magnitude of the question in its immediate public aspect. If it affected only myself, I might be well contented with the verdict which history will pass upon the transaction, under the sacred law which governs the ultimate triumph of the truth.

For two years we have been struggling to subdue a rebellion so enormous in its proportions and so persistent in its purposes that it has become a revolution.

This government has put into the field over seven hundred thousand men. To discipline these men, and to lead them in the field, the country must depend upon such as have been educated, to some extent at least, in military science. Hence it is a public question of the highest possible importance, whether an officer who has held important commands since the beginning of the war is entitled to the confidence of the people, or has justly forfeited his claim to it. It is a sad commentary upon the disjointed condition of the times, that at the very moment when the nation is offering its blood and treasure without stint in the effort to preserve inviolate the principles of civil liberty, a citizen of that nation, however humble, shall be accused, tried, and condemned of an infamous crime, before a tribunal sitting in secret session, without notice, or even an intimation of the charges made against him; without the opportunity to confront or examine the witnesses brought against him; to be himself called and interrogated, in utter ignorance that he is under trial; and, finally, to be denied permission to produce witnesses, when the fact became apparent to him that he was, for some unexplained reason, in danger of condemnation.

Since the time when the corner-stone of all civil liberty was laid under that government from which we derive our laws, which gives to the meanest subject, or the greatest criminal, the right to meet his accusers face to face and to confront his witnesses, no parallel can be found, in the history of constitutional governments, so startling in its violations of all that is sacred in personal rights, as are the proceedings of the secret tribunals created by the Congress which has just expired.

The report in question has been given to the press, but no part of the evidence is published, except such extracts as the committee have seen fit to embody in the report itself. Of my own testimony given before the committee, but a small part is printed. I shall therefore submit to the public some facts, stated by me to the committee, which they have not published, and some of the proofs which I requested the committee to take, but which they declined, upon the ground that they had not the time to take the testimony.

Among the facts submitted by me to the committee, which they have not noticed, are some which I must repeat in substance here.

On the twelfth day of December last, when I crossed the Rappahannock, I was in command of the Left Grand Division of the Army of the Potomac, which numbered about forty thousand men. It was entirely crossed and posted in line of battle by three o'clock of that day. My command consisted of two corps of three divisions each. At five o'clock General Burnside came to my headquarters, where he met — with me-Generals William F. Smith and John F. Reynolds, corps commanders. The subject of conversation was a proposed attack upon the enemy on the following morning, when I strongly advised General Burnside to make an attack from my division upon the enemy's right, with a column of at least

1 a reply of Major General William B. Franklin, to the report of the Joint Committee of Congress on the conduct of the war, submitted to the public on the 6th of April, 1863.

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